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Serving: IL

FFA leaders: Let’s find our why

Slideshow: Five students from across Illinois will represent their FFA peers as state officers.

Five Illinois FFA members were elected by their peers to serve as state FFA officers this week, during the 91st annual Illinois FFA Convention in Springfield. More than 5,000 FFA members attended.

The new officers are:

  • President Gage Miller, Cambridge FFA
  • Vice President Lane Harvey, Fairfield FFA
  • Reporter Brodee McCormick, Athens FFA
  • Secretary Collin White, Midwest Central FFA
  • Treasurer Emma Freebairn, Serena FFA

The annual state FFA officer election is an emotionally fraught morning with big futures hanging in the balance. Each student delays college for a year to serve as a state FFA officer.

For newly elected president Gage Miller, this is a dream fulfilled. “I always looked up to state officers, but I didn’t know, could that be me? When I became section president, I realized I actually could have a chance at this. I got determined, talked to my advisor, and now I’m here.”

Lane Harvey, vice president, says he’ll work toward his “why” every day. “My purpose is to be an encouragement and motivator to as many members as possible,” he says. “I’ll put forth every effort to keep Illinois FFA one of the most impactful youth organizations in the state.”

The officers were elected from a group of 10 candidates selected by committee earlier in the spring. According to the Illinois FFA, the state officers will travel more than 20,000 miles over the next year, visiting chapters around the state, conducting workshops and meetings, representing Illinois FFA in professional settings and promoting agricultural education. Illinois has elected a state FFA officer team since 1929.

Here’s more information about the new officers. Check out the slideshow to see photos from the election.

Gage Miller, president. Gage is a member of the Cambridge FFA chapter in Henry County. He is the son of Travis and Starla Fransene and Justin and Amy Miller, and is a 2019 graduate of Cambridge High School. Gage grew up on a diversified corn, soybean and livestock farm near Cambridge, showing pigs on the side. He joined FFA because of his interest in agriculture.

“I always thought it was cool to get that blue jacket,” Gage says, laughing. Then he was encouraged to run for a chapter office. “And the next thing you know, I was chapter president, and then I just couldn’t get enough. And now I’m here, and it’s an unbelievable feeling!”

He says he was a not-very-talkative freshman who wasn’t very involved, but now he’s a completely different person because of FFA. “I want to be able to provide those opportunities to other FFA members, so they can have amazing experiences that can make them into completely different individuals.”

Gage gives his parents credit for his transformation, too, adding, “I would not be the person I am today without them.”

Following his year as a state officer, Gage plans to attend the University of Wisconsin-Plattville, majoring in either ag education or ag business.

Lane Harvey, vice president. Lane is a member of the Fairfield FFA chapter in Wayne County. He’s the son of Patrick and Jennifer Harvey and a 2019 graduate of Fairfield Community High School. Lane’s background is more industrial than agricultural, as his dad works as a skilled contract welder in the oil industry. But he found his home in FFA.

“I’d like to make an impact on as many FFA members as I can,” Lane says. “I came in FFA as kind of a misfit kid, and if I can interest one of those misfit kids in this organization that’s changed my life, I’d love to have the opportunity to do that.”

Lane jokes that his mom forced him into FFA, when he was more interested in sports. She doesn’t disagree.

“I was die-hard FFA, and Lane has always loved being outdoors or whatever,” Jennifer says. She was a Cisne FFA chapter officer and Section 23 vice president, but moved on with life after that — and regretted not continuing further in FFA. “So when Lane was able to join FFA, I let it be his idea, but he was very much persuaded.”

She was pleasantly surprised when her sports-loving son decided to run for section and then state office. “He told me, ‘I fell in love with this organization. I want to do more; I want give back, Mom. They’ve helped me find my place, and I want to do more.’”

Brodee McCormick, reporter. Brodee is a member of the Athens FFA chapter in Menard County. He is the son of Will Tomlinson and Mandy McCormick-Tomlinson and a 2019 graduate of Athens High School.

Brodee raises Boer goats and has competed in rodeo since kindergarten in events such as team roping, reining and cutting. He’s come to the state FFA convention for years, as his mom runs the Western store in Springfield and mans a booth at the convention.

“I remember sitting up in the top of the stands watching the sessions and walking around the trade show and seeing all the blue jackets, and I knew that I wanted to be a part of that organization,” Brodee says. “I didn’t really know at that point all of the amazing opportunities and leadership roles. I knew I just wanted to wear a blue jacket.”

Asked if he likes to write, as the newly elected reporter, he doesn’t hesitate: “I do now!”

Collin White, secretary. Collin is a member of the Midwest Central FFA, hailing from Forest City in Mason County. He is the son of Eric and Jennifer White and a 2019 graduate of Midwest Central High School.

Collin and his brother are the sixth generation on their family farm, raising popcorn, soybeans, corn, green beans, pumpkins and more in the sandy soils of Mason County. His supervised agricultural experience projects have been in both crop production and vegetable crop production.

“I haven’t stopped smiling since I got off stage,” he says. “I just can’t wait for the year to come.”

Collin and the rest of the officer team have become close friends over the past year as section presidents. “I’m so excited to be with this group. Illinois better watch out, because we’re going to have great chemistry as a team!”

Emma Freebairn, treasurer. Emma is a member of the Serena FFA chapter, hailing from Ottawa in LaSalle County. She is the daughter of Scott and Heather Freebairn and a 2019 graduate of Serena High School.

Emma grew up on a farm near Ottawa, where her family has a diversified crop operation and a beef cattle feedlot. She plans to pursue a career in ag communications and will head to Lake Land College after her year as a state officer. Part of her sacrifice to serve this year: giving up showing cattle from her Simmental herd, which she’s done on the state and national levels for most of her life. “It’s going to be pretty hard to take a year off from doing that!” she says.

It’s not lost on Emma that there are younger members watching her, and she tries to make the most of every opportunity. “It means so much that they could be looking up to me. When I went on stage, I thought, even if I wasn’t elected, what kind of message I could give to younger students to inspire them to become more involved.”

That message?

“Dream big. Work hard. Anything is possible.”

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